Photography can change the way we see the world. We can perceive more, glimpsing what the naked eye misses. With bright sun on a fountain, a short exposure can freeze the water into a complex sculpture. At night, a long exposure can reveal planetary movement, transform traffic into an illuminated network or give texture to otherwise black shadows.
A year ago, I bought a new camera, which allowed me to learn a lot about night-time photography. I often found myself on a walk among the stars with camera in hand. Here are four lessons from that quality time spent with my camera over the last 12 months.
These pictures were taken whilst wandering around a tiny, sleepy village, in the middle of the night. I thought I might get a shot of the full moon over some fields. There didn’t seem to be much else there. But after I got what I thought I was looking for — moon, lonely cars streaking past — I stumbled upon a pier at the lake, with two boys fishing and smoking.
It was so unexpected and peaceful. The long exposure captured the illuminated baits dancing across the water and revealed much more of the shore than what I saw at first. Lesson learned? You won’t always get what you expect and that’s a good thing.
Later in the summer, I wanted to try star shots. The trial and error was fun, but took ages. I used a Triggertrap remote to time the shots. I quickly got bored with the star trails. The 55mm lens was just too much of a crop to get anything satisfying. So, I experimented with getting more objects in the foreground, like a palm or the neighbor’s house and the landscape behind it.
But, my favorite was a kind of selfie. For about half of the six minute exposure, I stood in front of the camera, hand outstretched and feeling a bit silly. Then, I ducked out of shot, allowing some of the starlight to shine through my ‘shadow’.
As winter approached, I quickly realized that taking long-exposure shots at night can be an extremely cold business. Standing still for minutes on end, trying to shield the tripod from an icy wind is not fun! But, the night I took these shots, there was a particular clarity to the sky which was irresistible. Again, I tried getting different objects in the foreground, and came out with some interesting shots.
Spending the evening cycling around Berlin, photographing the Festival of Lights, produced some surprisingly boring shots. My favourite is a shot of fellow EyeEm photographer Stephan, as he was shooting the Berliner Dom, with the projections going past his shoulder. A similar thing happened on New Year’s Eve. The photos of the fireworks in the sky that I took were nowhere near as pleasing one of a rocket just about to shoot off, sparks flying in the wind.
Note: this article originally appeared on the EyeEm blog.